Vancouver housing co-op rescinds family's apartment because unborn child is a girl

Kristjan Gottfried and Michelle Hurtig were first the waiting list for Vancouver's Marina Housing Co-operative, a nonprofit when the volunteer co-chair of the admissions board told them that their new home couldn't be confirmed until they found out the sex of their unborn baby. When they found out they were having a girl, they were refused a place to live. Read the rest

Did an 18th-century engineer manage to build a chess-playing automaton?

In 1770, Hungarian engineer Wolfgang von Kempelen unveiled a miracle: a mechanical man who could play chess against human challengers. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll meet Kempelen's Mechanical Turk, which mystified audiences in Europe and the United States for more than 60 years.

We'll also sit down with Paul Erdős and puzzle over a useful amateur.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

Watch Depression-era machinists and laborers forge and mill steel parts

When watching assembly line robots of today, it's easy to forget that gruelling repetitive work used to be done manually. This beautiful footage from 1936 shows the precision needed, and it's beautifully lit and shot in black and white. Read the rest

Walt Disney reviews work-in-progress "Pirates of the Caribbean"

Walt Disney shows off a ride in production, "Pirates of the Caribbean" to Miss Disneyland-Tencennial.

It is amazing to see my favorite ride at Disneyland at this point in its life. During my first visit, my grandmother lost her wig on the second sharp waterfall drop. My father had to fish it out. Cemented my love of that ride forever.

Sadly, Walt seems a little condescending. Read the rest

Alabama Senate leading candidate Roy Moore refers to Native Americans and Asians as "reds and yellows"

Wow. One of Alabama's Senate candidates, Roy Moore, refers to Native Americans as "reds" and Asians as "yellows." He is competing with – and leading – Sen. Luther Strange in the GOP Senate runoff next week.

In a speech on Sunday, he said, "We were torn apart in the Civil War — brother against brother, North against South, party against party. What changed?

Now we got blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God.”

Oh shit. This is the same crackpot who told CNN last week that 9/11 was probably God's way of punishing non-believers.

According to The Hill:

Moore's campaign told The Hill the remarks were taken out of context. "'Red, yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world,'" the campaign said in a statement, in an apparent reference to the religious song "Jesus Loves the Little Children."

"This is the gospel. If we take it seriously, America can once again be united as one nation under God."

Moore leads Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) in all recent public polling of the runoff. The winner of that contest will advance to the general election and be expected to beat a Democrat to serve out the rest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions's term.

Read the rest

Dead man sat in truck for 8 months in airport parking lot before someone found him

A dead body sat in a pickup truck for eight months in a parking lot at the Kansas City International Airport before someone discovered it. 53-year-old Randy Potter disappeared January 17, and had parked at the airport that same day. When his family contacted the airport police to report their missing relative and to see if his truck was still in the parking lot, the police said if it was, they would find it. Astonishingly, they somehow missed it.

It wasn't until someone reported a bad odor that the body was spotted inside the truck. Apparently, according to police, Potter had committed suicide, but no other details were released.

According to Time:

The truck's windows are tinted, but are light enough to allow anyone to see inside. When an airport police officer found the body, it was covered up by a blanket, according to a police report. "No one should go through what we went through," said Potter's wife, Carolina. "We should not have gone through eight months agonizing, speculating."

Potter's truck had been listed in the missing person flyers circulated by Lenexa police. The family had visited the airport early on.

Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez said city officials were gathering facts to determine how Potter's body remained in the lot as long as it did. The economy lot where Potter's body was found is one of three lots situated about 2 ½ miles (4 kilometers) north of the airport terminals. Shuttles carry travelers from the lot to the terminals.

Read the rest

No one wants to host the Olympics

The International Olympic Committee took the unprecedented step of announcing the 2024 and 2028 Olympic host cities (Paris and LA), because both cities were bidding unopposed, and LA had to be bribed with a $1.8B "grant" from the IOC to agree to host the games. Read the rest

Elementary school teacher suspended for having students sympathize as KKK members

A fifth-grade South Carolina teacher is on administrative leave after asking students to visualize themselves as KKK members and then ponder the justifications of their treatment toward African Americans.

A man who identified himself as an uncle of one of the students posted the assignment to Facebook on Thursday, according to USA Today. "You are there...You are a member of the KKK. Why do you think your treatment of African-Americans is justified?,” one of the assignment’s questions asks.

A statement from the school district for Oak Pointe Elementary said it is making sure such an assignment will “never be used again.”

Image: Originally published by the Toronto Star. Unknown author. Read the rest

Equifax was always dirty, it bills the US government for millions, and was repeatedly hacked

Before Equifax changed its name in 1976 -- in the midst of a Congressional investigation and a national scandal -- it was the Retail Credit Company, founded in Atlanta in 1899. Read the rest

America's dirtiest, biggest student lender neutralized by federal watchdog

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, founded by Elizabeth Warren prior to her career as a senator, has entered into an unprecedented settlement with National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts, the largest holder of student debt in the country. Read the rest

How to talk Minnesotan

"It's okay to feel good about things here but there's no sense running down the street telling people about it at the top of your voice Minnesotans prefer to express their positive feelings through the use of negatives because it naturally levels things out.

From the 1993 TPT video "How To Talk Minnesotan" by Howard Mohr. He also wrote a book with the same name.

[via Kottke] Read the rest

Amazon's new 10" 1080p Fire HD tablet

Amazon's Fire tablets have replaced Apple iPads around our house. This new 10" tablet will be mine.

My daughter has broken many very expensive Apple tablets. I switched her over to an Amazon Fire that only cost $50 and she loved it. I tried one and never looked back.

Due to my heavy use of Apple OS X for a lot of my day-to-day work, Android doesn't integrate quite as well as I'd like -- but for entertainment, which is mostly what I look to a tablet for, these Amazon devices are perfect. I have all the toys I want, and almost none of the distractions that'd take me away from watching, reading or playing.

I am sure if I put the effort in to making Android work well with my interconnected OSX tools all would be well, but I don't want it. I find the screens Amazon chooses to be beautiful, and Amazon Prime video is incredibly easy to access. Netflix and Hulu are also right there for me, when I want them.

This new unit sports a 1.8/1.4 GHZ quad-core processor and 2 GB RAM. It'll be interesting to see how it benchmarks against the Apple iPad Pro, for far, far less money.

I await eagerly. I ordered red.

All-New Fire HD 10 Tablet with Alexa Hands-Free, 10.1" 1080p Full HD Display, 32 GB Read the rest

Twitter users hunt down Seattle Nazi and knock him out

A Twitter user named @bigotbasher posted a photo of a man wearing a Nazi armband on a Seattle bus, who was reportedly "harassing a black man" and "screaming in peoples' faces." This set into motion a search to find the Nazi. Less than ninety minutes later he was located and knocked out.

Via Select All:

People were initially posting videos of the faces of everyone involved in the Seattle incident unblurred, potentially placing people into legal jeopardy. 4chan attempted to track down the guy who clocked Richard Spencer earlier this year (though the man they identified was, ultimately, an already-dead guy). And the horrible series of mistakes made by the amateur sleuths at Reddit after the Boston Bombing, where several innocent people were named as potential terrorists, should loom large in any discussion about broadcasting the face and location of an individual.

Twitter user @teethnclaws, when contacted over DM by Select All, says that using the internet like this is necessary. “[Fascists] already do this. The right has already murdered 27 people this year in the U.S., including one of my dear comrades. I’ve been stabbed twice by them in seven years,” he wrote. “The right is already tracking us, killing us. This is why we organize in numbers, and why we wear those scary black masks. When we are identified, we can lose our lives.

Read the rest

Experimental software makes 3D head models from front-on face photos

Researchers at the Computer Vision Laboratory, The University of Nottingham have posted an online demo of their 3D Face Reconstruction from a Single Image paper. Read the rest

You can take the TREBLAB XR500 earbuds anywhere

Mom spies penis drawing in Netflix kid’s cartoon and is "extremely disgusted"

An eagle-eyed mom spotted a cave-drawing penis in a Netflix children’s show and posted her outrage on Facebook.

The phallic depiction is located inside of a log during season one, episode 35 of Maya the Bee, according to The Mirror.

“I know that something like this should not be in a kid's show whatever,” the mom says during the video. “I’m extremely disgusted by it...there should be no reason why my kids should have to see something like this.”

Snopes gives the early anatomy lesson a “true” rating.

Image: Snopes Read the rest

"Mad Pooper" terrorizes Colorado Springs family

A Colorado Springs running enthusiast, known locally as "The Mad Pooper," has been leaving gifts on a private lawn in a most public fashion.

Via Competitor.com:

A mystery woman in Colorado Springs, Colo. is giving runners a pretty crappy reputation. According to local CBS affiliate KKTV, this runner has been defecating outside the house of resident Cathy Budde for the past seven weeks. Even worse—her children first spotted the woman.

Budde and her family have caught the runner at least three times. However, this has not stopped this mystery runner. She continues to leave waste behind at least once a week. The woman has gone so far as to change her running schedule to avoid prying eyes. The community has nicked named her “The Mad Pooper.”

Budde thinks the act is intentional, even if she is unsure who the woman is.

“I put a sign on the wall that’s like ‘please, I’m begging you, please stop.’ … She ran by it like 15 times yesterday, and she still pooped,” Budde told KKTV.

Read the rest

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